Will Brown regret his reply to Cameron?
Ever since the budget in March the potential for an explosion over the vehicle excise duty changes has been hovering in the background. Applying higher rates to vehicles that pollute the most was in line with existing green policy and Darling’s plan to impose the regime on existing vehicles as well as new purchases did not attract all that much immediate comment.
In June, when Cameron pressed Brown hard on the issue he was told that the majority of drivers would benefit. As the Telegraph’s main lead notes – “..ministers repeatedly insisted that only a small number of drivers would be left worse off.”
Unfortunately for Brown and Darling their statements then don’t square with the Treasury’s official estimates just published. So 43% will pay more; about 39% will be no better off while only 18% will benefit.
As we saw during the petrol crisis of September 2000 the cost of motoring can be political dynamite. Any changes have to be handled with great care and ministers would have been much better off to have been frank upfront rather than allow the information to come out in the way that it has.
It is almost a straight re-run of the 10p tax rate debacle and over the past couple of months we have seen the damage that that has caused. If Brown is forced out of Number 10 early, which I am not convinced of, then it will be his basic lack of political acumen that will be to blame.
It seems that he has a mental block over giving people bad news. To simply deny things, as is his want, just makes him appear shifty and untrustworthy and is, I believe, the main driver behind the spectacular collapse in his and Labour’s poll ratings.
As it is we are, surely, heading for another damaging policy U-turn. Not good.
Thankfully for Gord Glasgow East has one of the lowest levels of car ownership in the UK.